Tuesday, December 24, 2013

So this is Christmas...

Here's our Christmas card and letter to you!

Josi is in 2nd grade, still plays the violin, and is a weekend warrior, when she gets to indulge in her two loves: books and nature.

Abi has been having a great year so far! She is in fourth grade and is nearing the end of book seven in Suzuki flute.  She has been spending time with the family animals and has visited Chicago on a bus! (written by Abi herself) 

Darel became a high school choir teacher this fall and is enjoying his new position.  He built a treehouse in the backyard and went fully vegan as of this summer.

Keri remains mostly a mom, but has delighted in helping the school earn the Michigan Green School Certificate with an Emerald distinction.  She also has stepped up her teaching and learning by taking on a few tutoring students.  She saw her little urban homestead grow with the addition of a honeybee colony.  She also had bangs cut, so she is getting reacquainted with her blow dryer. 

We're hoping for a happy and healthy 2014 for all of you!

with love - the Middaugh family

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A little something I've been thinking about.

As you can see from the list on the right, there is no shortage of reading going on in our home.  Actually many of the books listed are listened to in the car, while several others are being read on the couch.  One person in our family is even known to read 3 books at once (one for upstairs, one for the main floor, and one for 'other' of course).  And it's no secret that we are big fans of the library.

So it's no surprise that I'm really enjoying this latest library loan.

Over the years I've read many personal finance books.  I figured it was my way of contributing financially to our family since I stepped away from my career 10 years ago to raise kids.  (Has it been that long? My, how time flies when you are doing laundry! Not.)  I've read Dave Ramsey, The Millionaire Next Door, The Automatic Millionaire, and others.  And, yes, I've learned a thing or two from each one.

But none of those comes close to the paradigm shift that this book presents.

And I love it because it makes sense.  Even though our family doesn't have much money or worldly assets, I really do feel like we live abundantly. I sometimes joke that we are "rich in eggs," "rich in music," or "rich in firewood!"

But back to the paradigm shift.  For starters, it's frustrating to read financial books that were written before the Great Recession (are we still calling it that?) because I find them irrelevant.  It's also unsettling to read books that advocate for more, more, more.

This book brought up so many points that seem healthy and sustainable.  I'll share with you some notes that I found myself scribbling as I read.

Page 22  "Reimagining wealth is not only beneficial, but inevitable... to proactively usher in this transition is better than having it imposed upon us."  I agree!

Page 22  The author wonders "if the assumed version of wealth...actually bespeaks a certain poverty."   Yes! I have sensed this all along!  The author questions the notions "time is money" because it tries to monetize time and "it takes money to make money."  Do you own your time, or does your time own you?  Happiness comes from being in charge of your own time.  Think how you feel stuck in a traffic jam! (We're happy as long as we've got our book on tape!)

Page 58 The author describes the life of a friend, a life that is "profoundly abundant in ways that have become increasingly rare in contemporary America: freedom, community, choice, good health, and simple happiness."  In contrast, the irony "is that we trade real wealth for illusory riches."

Page 90 It's tricky to navigate modern life because "the current monetary policy seems to monetize and commodify almost every aspect of our well-being."

Page 99 "The workings of our money system and the manner in which it pits us against the environment, each other, and ultimately ourselves is so nonsensical that it becomes repellant" which sheds light on my aversion to Christmas.

Page 131 To improve our monetary system, we "need only to reimagine and revalue ourselves."  That sounds like fun!

But the biggest takeaway from this whole book is the idea that money is debt, and with every mortgage that's given to an eager family, our dollars are deflated because the money that's loaned to buy the house was just created out of thin air, and in turn increases inflation.  Which makes the tradition in some countries of giving a home to your child as a wedding gift, seem much smarter.

So, what to do now?  Rethink that mortgage.  Question the American Dream.  And consider a homemade Christmas.

How about you?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Goodbye, Mad Eye

Today we said goodbye to one of our backyard chickens, named Mad Eye.  She came to us in the mail when she was just one day old and we quickly saw that she had some kind of eye disorder.  But she lived a fine life all these months, pecking and scratching with the rest of the flock.

She's maybe 2 months old here.

Mad Eye is the brownish one in back.

She even laid plenty of tasty eggs!

Can you tell which eggs came from the backyard and which came from the store?

Then about a month ago, her special needs started to get the best of her.  So today she went to chicken heaven, where I'm sure there are plenty of fat slugs and cracked corn to keep her satisfied.  And no ladies chasing her around the backyard with antibiotic eye drops.

Goodbye, Mad Eye.

Here she is, a few weeks old.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Wedding

Recently we had the opportunity to make a quick trip to Chicago for a wedding celebration of a dear friend of ours.  The Music Man and I also treated it as our 15 year anniversary getaway, which just means that we went out to eat once or twice instead of packing our meals.  Romantic, I know.

We zoomed on into town just in time for the potluck, musical, gardenish ceremony in an old converted fire house.

Can you see how eager we are to dig into the potluck?
After that, we dined and reconnected with friends, then retired to our lodging (airbnb, anyone?).

What's one of the best things about Chicago?  Both the locals and visitors agree: the lakefront, of course!  So I rented a Divvy bike and tagged along Music Man's morning lakeside jog.

I admit I underestimated the difficulty of using a camera while riding a bike.

We even joined the tourists for the Architectrual Boat tour and grabbed some Garrett's popcorn before heading back to Michigan, to our kids, to our animals, to our back-to-school reality.

But what a sweet wedding weekend it was.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More Michigan!

Michigan is such a great state, isn't it?  We decided to take advantage of a free couple of days and explore a little bit more.

First stop: Lansing and the Capitol building.

The stars at the very top are the size of a dinner plate!

We loved the intricate details of the decor.

Furniture was all moved around because of renovations.

Even the Capitol building needs to have its carpet replaced!

inside detail of the door hinges

courtroom with furniture stuffed into it

After our quick tour of Lansing, we headed northwest to Grand Haven on Lake Michigan.

Even cloudy skies can't stop this bunch from having fun!

Grand Haven has a quaint trolley that drove us around the city, highlighting interesting facts.  We learned that several of the homes were mail-ordered from Sears & Roebuck.

Another beach in Grand Haven.

We spied on this beach exercise class.  Hey, ladies, if you need another workout, I've got some firewood that needs chopping!

It happened to be the week of the Coast Guard Festival.

We toured one of the ships and learned its main purpose was to break up ice in the Great Lakes.

We also drove in to Grand Rapids and visited the Frederick Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park.  Wow, those are some serious gardens.

There seemed to be artwork everywhere, even on the ceiling of the museum cafe!

Here we are, enjoying some ice cream at Pfaff's Pharmacy in Grand Haven, one of the oldest soda fountains around.

Back to the beach!

On our way back home, we stopped in downtown Grand Rapids, this time to discover some murals, a war memorial, and the local library.

When the power of love overcomes the love for power, there will be peace.

Oh, Michigan, there's so much to see!